Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves - It's Easier (Q-Dee 1036)
As you may have noticed, most of the records I put up here are antiques... scratchy relics of a bygone age that serve as some kind of window into what it was like to listen to music back in the day. It does my heart good to offer you the B side of an actual vinyl soul 45 that is brand spankin' new (well, almost).
Eli Reed is the genuine article. Emerging as one of the most authentic voices of the 'renaissance in old-school soul, blues and R&B stylings on both sides of the Atlantic', Reed does things the old-fashioned way, and it shows. Writer of his own material, leader of his band, he conveys a true sense of conviction in what he is doing. If his music sounds like soul, that's because it is.
He grew up the son of 'sociologist turned music critic' Howard Husock, and immersed himself in his father's extensive record collection. Blues, Soul, Gospel, R&B - by the time Eli was in his teens, he had developed his own ear for the music. After starting out on harmonica, he taught himself to play the guitar and the piano as well. In his senior year of high school, he took a trip to Memphis to check out the possibility of going to college down there, and was just blown away. Inspired, he quite literally 'went down to the crossroads', and moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi when he was just 18 years old.
Playing out on the local club scene, that's where they started calling him 'the paperboy', as he looked impossibly young to be doing what he was doing. He hooked up with delta legend Sam Carr, who taught him a thing or two about keeping it real, and showed him what it meant to 'leave it all out there' on stage. If nothing else, performing before those tough Mississippi crowds helped him hone his craft and, after taking Reed as his musical moniker (after Jimmy?), Eli, like so many before him, left Clarksdale for Chicago where he finally started going to college in 2003.
He began spinning the music he loved on his own University of Chicago radio show, which led to his meeting the great Mitty Collier, who actually works at the University. As it turned out, Collier was in the process of starting her own congregation, The More Like Christ Christian Fellowship Ministries, and hired our man Reed to play keyboards at their services. Blessed with another close-up look at the sincerity and soul of black American music, Eli soaked it all in.
He cut his first album while he was on spring break in 2004.
Recorded in mono with a 'bunch of friends from high school', it got great reviews, and basically convinced Eli that he should pursue his musical career full time. Admittedly, he was 'all over the map' at that point, and hadn't found his true voice as yet. Back in his home town outside of Boston, he formed the True Loves and began putting in his time, working the bars and writing his own original material. It paid off, and they were selected as the best R&B band by the Boston Phoenix in 2005.
In 2006, he came to the attention of Ed Valauskas, the Q Division producer, who signed him to the Somerville, Massachusetts label. With a decent record company behind him, Eli started making some noise, and was getting noticed by the right people. His cookin' set at SXSW in 2007, coupled with a 4 song EP release, helped put him on the national map. As the True Loves developed, their reputation for hard-hitting, high energy live performances preceded them.
When John Ciba started putting together his 'Rabbit Factory Revue', he asked Eli if the band would back up the legendary Roscoe Robinson at a few dates last year. Reed jumped at the chance to work with one of his heroes, and the chemistry between the two men was an obvious success. I saw them perform in Brooklyn on that tour, and was just knocked out. I mean, I knew Robinson was gonna be great, but I wasn't prepared for The Paperboy.
Above all else, Reed is a singer, and I think that's what makes this whole thing work. To watch him lose the jacket and tie, and wind up in a puddle of sweat on his knees as he delivers his own heartfelt lyrics, is to believe once again in the power of this art form... to understand somehow the meaning of soul, and wind up (for once) feeling good about the continued existence of real music in this country.
...and beyond. After Q-Division released this cool single we have here (with The Satisfier on the flip) last summer, they sent Eli to the UK to play a few solo club dates to promote it. They were waiting for him. Both sides of the record began getting some airplay, and no less an authority than Nick Lowe wrote him up in his Siver Fox column in Mojo magazine, which really got the ball rolling (Eli will be opening a few dates for Lowe on his US tour later this month). Mojo also included Eli on the CD that came with their April issue, The New Dictionary of Blues and Soul.
His triumphant return to SXSW last month was, by all accounts, simply fantastic, and was carried live on local station KGSR (there are a few decidedly lo-fi videos of Eli and the band rattling around on YouTube, if you're interested). The initial run of singles pressed up by Q-Division sold out, but they've followed it up with another great one Take My Love With You b/w (Am I Just) Fooling Myself which is available now on totally authentic feeling heavy-ass vinyl at their website. You need to own one.
Eli & the True Loves are out there on the road right now, on a coast to coast tour highlighted by their appearance at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, and their return to NYC early next month. They're out there in support of their long awaited Q-Division album, Roll With You, which is scheduled to be released on April 29th. If you get the chance, you should go see them. You won't be disappointed.
The Paperboy, he delivers.